Osan crisis team talks armed airman into turning self in
February 4, 2009
OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — An Air Force police officer who left Osan Air Base with a loaded handgun while off duty talked of possibly killing himself, but a crisis negotiation team persuaded him to return to base, officials said.
There were no injuries in the weekend incident, which began late Friday night and ended hours later.
Officials Monday disclosed details of the incident, which led authorities to set up a dragnet in the area.
South Korean police manned roadblocks and deployed officers to Osan Air Base to work with police there to locate the airman.
Base police mobilized their crisis negotiation team and by about 1 a.m. were in phone contact with him.
"The focus was on two things," Air Force Lt. Col. Jefferson B. Brown, staff judge advocate with Osan’s 51st Fighter Wing, said Monday: to get the airman to not hurt himself and to turn himself in.
"There’s no indication throughout the entire evening that he was targeting any individual," said Brown. "It appears as though his intention was focused on himself — or potentially hurting himself."
Also during the night, the airman called a friend — also a base police officer — who met him and stayed with him until he turned himself in hours later, officials said.
Officials declined to name the airman, noting he has not been charged with a crime and that the case is under investigation.
But they said he’s an airman first class assigned to the wing’s police unit, the 51st Security Forces Squadron. The airman’s wife also lives in the area but not with U.S. military sponsorship, Brown said.
Authorities have not jailed the airman, but he must be accompanied by a police escort "at all times, whether to appointments or to wherever he may need to go," said wing spokesman 1st Lt. Malinda C. Singleton.
The airman left base sometime between 10 and 11 p.m. Friday with a loaded 9 mm handgun he checked out of the unit armory, officials said. The airmen also had two 15-round magazines, officials said.
How the airman was able to check out the weapon while off duty was among details under investigation, Brown said.
"As you can imagine, Security Forces is taking anything along those lines very seriously and is ensuring that all procedures are followed," he said.
While off base, the airman went to the home of his mother, who is of Korean ethnicity, Brown said.
Singleton said wing officials credit the crisis negotiation team members and the friend who stayed with the airman for "their ability to help defuse the situation and bring him back to base safely and with no harm being done to anybody."